Song: Dani Larkin – The Red (Maca’s Return) review

by Paddy Kinsella

If my Instagram is anything to go by, the pandemic has seen a renaissance for folklore. The desire to escape from this world to another is an obvious reason, but also, with life feeling so tenuous, there was a desperation to reclaim the stories that made us. As we lost everything around us, our focus shifted to other parts of life we had gradually been losing over time. Folklore was something that needed rescuing from the clutches of the internet and our current obsession with reason and logic. Thankfully, the folklore tradition where singer-songwriter, Dani Larkin, hails from still has a strong hold. So strong that motorways have been re-routed so as to avoid the destruction of fairy bushes for fear ‘the good people’ would curse the new roadway and bring about an unnatural number of motoring fatalities.  

Larkin’s latest single is a mythical reimagining of what it would be like if Maca, the goddess of war and transformation, and the namesake of Ard Mhaca (Armach – the county where Larkin hails from), returned. More of a story set to song than the other way around, The Red (Maca’s Return), could only be described as an epic. The guitar strings are wound tight, so that when Larkin strikes them with vigour, the scenes of battle – the ire, the bloodlust and the devastation – light up in high definition. This sense of drama is reflected in her voice, which turns from breathy to incensed to pained within the song’s just over three minute runtime – she is blessed with a delivery that would be the envy of many.

Following the song’s many peaks and troughs, it ends with a crescendo where Larkin repeats ‘the red, the red, the red,’ and it feels like the words are spiralling around you – the Maca feeling like a real threat to your sense of comfort and safety. And, of course, the Maca is a real threat, as no folk tale has ever been spun without a lesson hiding in its shadows. As Larkin tells us, ‘The truth embedded within the song is that each time the men ‘triumph’ in war they defeat their own nature, a natural sense of femininity that could lead them from a cycle of war and violence.’  

There are lessons to be learnt from story and song, and Larkin, by acting as a bridge between the modern and the traditional, is providing a very necessary service. The ruling paradigm of truth and logic neglects the wisdom inherent to the tales of our forebears. Hopefully, writers like Larkin can inspire a generation to look back and help restore mythology to its rightful seat beside – not below – reason and logic.

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